Festival: HRH Metal
Venue: O2 Academy, Birmingham
Dates: 15th-16th February 2020
Promoters: HRH/Chic Festivals
Disclaimer: All reviews and previews I write are my own personal views as a fan of folk, power, and pagan metal. When offered press access to a gig/festival or sent an EPK for an album, I will state this in the post at the start. Even when press access or EPKs are sent, this will not influence my opinion on the music or the event itself. I aim to offer my own opinion as a fan.
NEXT EVENT TICKETS:
HRH and Chic Festivals are making some changes next year. Hammerfest will take place on 13th and 14th February 2021 at the o2 Academy Birmingham, with Lordi and Unleashed headlining the 2 day event. Get your tickets for next year here.
It’s been a good couple of years since I’ve been to the o2 Academy in Birmingham, and first impressions are that it was a lot smaller than I remember, which to be honest isn’t entirely a bad thing. It meant that as a short person there was more opportunity to be close to the stage and see more of what was going on.
As usual, the drinks prices were standard venue price, which meant that I was seeing people paying over £5 for a single pint, and a pint of Pepsi or lemonade was over £3. There were a couple of stalls in the venue, which were the same stalls as at HRH Vikings (but this was a good thing because there’s a lot of variety and you see something new each time you look, and I finally plucked up the courage to speak to a stall holder and get some new nose studs!).
There was a Domino’s pizza stall which we took advantage of on Day 2, but if you had any special dietary requirements you would have to leave the venue to look for other options.
As an addition, I would like to thank the wonderful merch staff who went out of their way to see if there were any Skiltron hoodies left in a size small, and there was!
We travelled down on the Friday evening to spend Valentine’s Day evening tucked up in bed with snacks, £6.50 Cava, and paranormal shows on the TV, so we were nice and fresh on Saturday to head to the local Wetherspoons (about a 5 minute walk from the venue), and get some much needed breakfast. For HRH events I tend to have a big breakfast so I only really need 1 extra meal later on.
We got to the venue not long before 3pm, when the first band on the main stage was due to play, and there was no queue. Security were great, giving every single person who came in a pat down, and checked bags.
There was some last minute set time changes on Day 1, as Lord of the Lost were unable to play due to the vocalist becoming ill. Lullaby for a Unicorn (who opened the third stage), took up a shortened main stage slot before Evil Scarecrow. It’s maybe me being weird with low self esteem and a low view of myself, but I didn’t really see the point in having three ladies on stage dancing in a sexual way while Lullaby for a Unicorn were playing. It personally puts me off as it seems to me that bands are using sex to sell their music rather than showing their talent as a band. I was put off Ensiferum (a great band in my opinion), because they did this at Bloodstock one year.
Nailed to Obscurity
The first band up on the main stage was Nailed to Obscurity, who were at HRH Metal as part of their European tour supporting Lord of the Lost (who were unable to play due to the vocalist being ill), and headliners of the tour, Equilibrium. Nailed to Obscurity play melodic death metal which, if you have been following me for a while, is not always my cup of tea. Melodeath isn’t something that I would generally listen to on a day to day basis, but to be honest at festivals I don’t really mind watching and listening to it. It’s definitely more of a festival genre for me. Nailed to Obscurity had energy and power, and the ambience of the music was portrayed exactly how you would expect melodeath to be. There were some clean vocals and calmer, more atmospheric sections to the music, and I am a sucker for some good atmospheric music. Would I choose to listen to Nailed to Obscurity on my morning commute? Probably not. But would I go check them out again at a festival? Yes, I would definitely have another watch.
Dendera are one of those bands I should really love. They are power metal based with some heavier, brutal sections to the instrumental, and even some harsh vocals thrown in for good measure. However, when I’ve listened to their recorded music I’ve never really been able to fully get into it. I’ve always enjoyed their live shows though, and HRH Metal was no exception. I first saw Dendera at Power Metal Quest Fest back in 2018, and remember enjoying their set despite not having a great day personally. There once again was some great energy on stage, the crowd were clearly loving the band, and he band were clearly thriving on the larger crowd. Dendera were supporting Rhapsody of Fire on a UK tour, and it was clear to see why they were chosen.
After Dendera, it was definitely time for some food, so it was a trip out for some tapas a la Spoons, and some much more affordable alcohol. There wasn’t really anything I was interested in until Evil Scarecrow later on in the evening.
Farting noises, shouting “EGGS!” in increasingly ridiculous ways, Brother Pain doing an headstand, and having a sexy dance off; it could only be Evil Scarecrow. As well as the traditional Robototron and Crabulon we were treated to some newer tracks from the latest album Antantarctica, with some new dance moves to boot. We even had a couple of older tracks, including Sixty Six Minutes Past Six, or as I like to call it, Six Minutes Past Seven.
I’ll be honest here, if Evil Scarecrow were a deadly serious band with their genre of music, I would probably not really be interested, but only someone with a stone dead heart couldn’t enjoy scuttling across a 3000 capacity venue, or stand in a field that can hold thousands producing a perfect robot square. The band seemed even more at ease on stage than they normally do, they were really tight, and the stage banter seemed completely natural. The Evil Scarecrow guys clearly love what they do and they are damn good at doing it.
Equilibrium were one of the main bands I was looking forward to seeing this weekend. I have been a fan for years, and this was my first ever opportunity to see them. After listening to their latest album, I was expecting big things from their set, and I was certainly not disappointed! High energy from the very start, they kicked off with Renegades, one of my current top tracks to go wild to. It was my first headbang of the weekend. There was so much going on with their show, from the amount of movement of the band members, to the light show that accompanied it. The high energy of the band was given a great response by the crowd. I definitely ended that set on an adrenaline rush! The perfect end to the set was Blut im Auge, one of their best known tracks.
Equilibrium were the other victim of the Renegades Tour curse, with their rhythm guitarist Dom being struck down with pneumonia. In true metal fashion, the show did go on, with several people from the tour stepping in to help. They had tour techs, and guitarists from both Nailed to Obscurity and Lord of the Lost. I will definitely be seeing Equilibrium again if I get the chance!
Rhapsody of Fire
Rhapsody of Fire are one of those bands who have been on my radar for ages, and I’ve listened to one or two tracks, but I knew that seeing them live would make or break it for me. I had enjoyed their latest release The Eighth Mountain, and there was a few classics such as Emerald Sword from the Rhapsody days that I was excited to hear live. The main issue I had with the set was the size of the crowd. It was sad to see a headlining band for a festival have such a small crowd in that large venue. I do understand for some that it may have been a little late (they finished just before 1am), but it was still a shame. The only good thing about the lack of crowd is that it was really easy for me to get to the front, and that I could grab myself a setlist at the end of the show thanks to their lovely camera guy who was filming the whole set.
The vocals were incredible, the symphonic elements and metal instrumnets worked perfectly together, and the vocalist was a master of the crowd. We were taken on a roller coaster of fantastic tales, through both light and dark. I will definitely be checking out Rhapsody of Fire live again should I get the chance.
After a late night (Rhapsody of Fire didn’t finish until around 1am), and some noise at the hotel, it was a late start to the day. It was a post-midday Spoons “brakfast” with halloumi fries, chicken bites, and loaded fries, and we got to the o2 just before Witchsorrow started.
Witchsorrow are a three-piece doom band who were our first band of the day on Sunday. I’ll be honest, doom isn’t really for me, and I wouldn’t choose to listen to it, but the band did seem as enthusiastic as required to play doom metal. There was also a decent sized crowd watching them and enjoying what they were doing, so from what I could see, they were good at what they do.
I have heard a fair bit about Krysthla, and although they had recently played Bloodstock, I hadn’t yet had the chance to see them in action live. A little more brutal and heavy than I am normally used to, it was still a great performance. The band was full of energy which was reflected back from the crowd. If you’re into crushing riffs and harsh vocals, this band are definitely one to check out.
Through complete personal preference, if Skiltron hadn’t been playing on the Sunday, I maybe would have given the full day a miss. However, Skiltron are definitely a band that are worth sticking around for. The crowd size compared to Saturday was much diminished, which was lucky for me as I was easily able to get a barrier spot! It would have been great to see a bigger crowd for them though. Despite some early technical issues with the guitars, a wired connection soon fixed the problem, and it didn’t affect the performance at all. The band utilised the entire space on stage, and were great at getting audience participation. I had a great dance along to their set, and a good singalong too. Skiltron are one of those bands where I actually know a fair few songs by them, but it isn’t until I watch them live that I realise just how many I know! I’ll also be looking forward to plenty more bagpipe action on Sunday 23rd February 2020 at The Fulford Arms in York!
When Skiltron had ended, and I had bought my Skiltron hoodie, I was feeling very tired after a full weekend of bands and late nights, as well as seeing Sabaton in London the weekend before, and seeing The Hu in Manchester on the Wedneday, followed by a roughly 4-5 hour sleep. Although I would have liked to check out The Three Tremors who finished the festival, I also wanted to make sure that I stayed healthy and that I was looking after myself. The early night also helped me with the near 5 hour journey home with delayed trains from Birmingham due to Storm Dennis on the Monday.
HRH Metal is always a “hit and miss” festival for me due to the wide variety of genres on display over 3 stages. There was a great portion of power and folk metal for my personal taste, though most bands I wanted to see were on the Saturday, and inevitably there were clashes. I can understand the logic of having the more “popular” bands on the Saturday to allow people time to go home on the Sunday, but it does mean that any bands scheduled on the Sunday have a much smaller crowd.
For someone with a wide variety of genres they enjoy, this is definitely a festival to check out. HRH and Chic Festivals are changing things up a bit from next year, as so Hammerfest will take place on the usual weekend of HRH Metal.